Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Pub Chatter #77

     The world is a disagreeable place. Plan to go on a picnic; it rains. Find the perfect pair of shoes; they don’t have your size. Those things are trivial compared to the disagreeableness of people. An old song complained; “I don’t know why you say goodbye; I say hello.” And that pretty well sums people up. No worries, right? Diversity is the buzzword of the times. This makes me wonder if the bees buzzing the word diversity know what it means.

     We live in a land filled with folks of various colors, political opinions, educational backgrounds and religious leanings. If diversity is gold, we should all be rich. The cause of our poverty is a typically human one. Our words and actions don't match. Differences are not valued equally.

     It makes no sense. But, that has never been a requirement of human thinking. Diversity, as it is socially applied, is about accepting and celebrating differences in people. That means all differences. Right cannot celebrate left if right is not valued. White cannot celebrate other colors if white is not valued.

     For all the talk of diversity, people act as if they would be happier if everyone agreed on every issue, wore the same size, ate the same thing, liked the same things and kept to the same schedule. Given some of the current consequences of division, absolute sameness sounds like an idea whose time has come.

     In reality, it sounds good only because it can never happen. A world of sameness and an absolute agreement would be a drab, extremely boring place filled with thankless, uncaring, boring people unable and unwilling to celebrate anything. Uniformity is not all bad. People share the same frailties, emotions, and problems associated with flesh and blood. A certain degree of sameness and personal identification is necessary to form relationships. The truth is people tend to flock to those who share something with them. Race, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, political affiliation, cultural heritage bind people together more than they divide people. One has only to find the common thread to tie a knot.

     Diversity has its place. However, if every person looked wildly different and believed, felt and acted in completely unique ways, it would make a great movie bar scene, but a very isolated, lonely real world. Equality and sameness are not synonymous. People are not all the same. People are equal. That is, each of us is born with equal worth. We could do with fewer murderers, child molesters, rapists, and thieves, but generally speaking, diversity is a good thing.

     Some people are like you, and some are not. It is not immoral, racist or bigoted to gravitate to those with whom we share common bonds. It is a part of that human nature that people say they value so much. Recognition of differences is not hate. It is living in reality. It is possible to be unlike someone, to dislike their preferences and their lifestyle choices without hating them and to allow them to live their life in peace. Difference without superiority; this is diversity. If only people would practice it.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Pub Chatter #76

     As memorial weekend comes to a close, my heartfelt thanks to America’s veterans and to those currently serving in the Armed Forces. Military service is an honorable contribution to the making of America. Those who died in battle and to those who gave their lives in other ways are due honor and respect. Only those who have served know the many sacrifices every active duty member makes in the service of our country.
      Every high school student who has read Shakespeare can testify to the way language changes over time. The pace of this process has increased during my lifetime. I have seen words go through multiple changes. One classic example is the word “hero.”
     As a child I watched all those old black and white WWII movies. The “heroes” in these movies charged enemy machine guns all alone, jumped on hand grenades, and generally sacrificed their safety to save their fellows and their country while refusing to believe they had done something special.
     When I enlisted in 1972, the word “hero” did not mean the same nor was it applied the same way. “Hero” in '72 meant something akin to “rebel.” That is, some one who stood up against the powers-that-be in support of freedom. It applied to long haired people in bell bottoms with liberal ideals, who thought it patriotic to break the unjust laws of America in defense of liberty.

   People who wore dressed uniformly and wore their hair short because the UCMJ demanded it were know as Nazis, storm troopers, baby killers and mindless pawns of the military-industrial complex. None of these folks could use drugs safely like their civilian counterparts--it was because they were all crazy from fighting and unjust war.
     Jump ahead another thirty years and a “hero” is any person who puts on a uniform. In the civilian world, a “hero" is a brave soul who stops traffic to protest the enforcement of the law of the land. Trespassers who flaunt the law by creeping over our borders are afforded sanctuary in honor of their heroics.
“Heroes” burn their neighborhoods, tell Congress of the hardship of life with no one pay for their birth control, and lamenting student loans.
     There are still Nazis, storm troops, hate killers, and mindless pawns of government. These Trump voters, care about flags and statues, like building walls, and obey laws they don’t particularly care for simply because they are the law. Today we call them “Republicans.”
     Republican---there’s another word that has changed. Mark it down along with: racist, sexist, gay, and gender. No matter, they are only words.  

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Trails of Trouble---- Chapter 46

     A cool breeze whispered from the east. Smoke curling from a thousand camp fires gathered in the treetops. The acrid bite of the evening air vibrated with a multitude of conversations. Campers wandered among the makeshift shelters seek loved ones lost in the rush from Shiloh. Scraps of black cloth hung from branches marked the fires of the morning. Eeryn and Cross, after a day of directing traffic, huddled over a hastily thrown together meal. Faryn and some of the females set up and infirmary that morning. They were still bandaging wounds and shuttling families away from danger.
     Bryn watched it all from the branches of a giant banyan tree. His head still ached, but that was not the reason he avoided the growing masses. He couldn’t quite bring himself to call it an army. A huge part of him hoped that time would never come. It seemed a strange attitude for a warrior. Across the tent strewn camp, One Eye caught his attention with a wave. Bryn returned the gesture and motioned for One Eye to join him. His friend wound his way through the camp to perch beside him.
     “Are you hiding from somebody?” One Eye said.
     “Not really,” Bryn answered with a shake of his head. “Just watching all the activity down there.”
     “What do you see?”
     “Not much that I care for, that’s for sure.”
     “Beginning to look like an army to me,” One Eye said. “Makes me wonder how it all came together so quickly.”
     “Yeah.” Bryn heaved a sigh. “Too quickly. I mean escape tunnels, supplies, tents, a rear guard of wolven, everything but weapons.”
     “Those are in a ravine just the other side of the stream.” One Eye pointed over his shoulder to the west.
     “Oh, great.”
     “Mind if I ask a question?” One Eye said.
     “Go ahead.” Bryn shrugged.
     “Does trouble naturally follow you, or do you simply manage to stay a step ahead of it?”
     “I was beginning to wonder about that myself,” Bryn replied.

     They exchanged glances and burst into laughter. One Eye threw back his head nearing toppling off the branch. Bryn caught him, but a couple of uncertain moments passed before they regained their perch on the limb. The mishap set off another round of laughter. It had been a long time since either laughed and they made the most of the opportunity letting the moment fade of its own accord.
     “They have plans,” One Eye said with a sweep of his hand toward the camp. “What are we going to do?”
     Bryn’s brow lifted. His head cocked slightly. “Aren’t we part of them?”
     “I’d say your duty is done,” One Eye mimicked the gesture. “You delivered your message and nearly died doing it. Your debt’s paid.”
     “I’m not sure Zett would see it that way.”
     “Not likely, but that doesn’t mean we have to join in that.” He nodded toward the camp.
     “My father’s in jail,” Bryn said. “I have a feeling joining this is the only way to save him and our home.”

     At the far edge of the clearing, two familiar wolven sentries broke from the woods at a run. Like a stone breaking the water’s surface waves of excitement rippled out from their path. Their news reached Bryn’s ear before they could reach their leader’s tent.
     Soldiers coming.
     The two words turned order to chaos in seconds. Mothers called for children and snatched up those at hand; unsure whether to run or hide. Would-be soldiers scrambled for any kind of weapon. Husbands pushed their wives into tents as they began to throw a few meager belongings into carts and packs.
     “One disruptor shot,” Bryn said to himself. “Just one. The whole camp would bolt in a blind panic.”
     Beside him, One Eye drew back on his bow. Mounted soldiers emerged from the trees. The air reeked of fear as the camp turned wide, panic filled eyes toward them. Bryn held out a hand to stay One Eye’s arrow. From the direction of Eeryn’s tent came the sound. It began with a rumble and built like a small earthquake into a word.
     Eeryn stood beside the fire; hands raised to the sky. His shout rolled over the camp washing the terror from unsteady hearts and turning panic into stone. The word rolled over Bryn with a physical presence. Power surged through his limbs. Slowly, deliberately, and without a sound, the crowd parted. The riders, halted by the force of the order, started forward again.
“What the hell was that?” One Eye whispered.
Bryn didn’t answer except to drop from the branch and beacon him to follow. The eyes that watched them walk toward the soldiers gave inspiration to hearts desperate to know what to do next. A wave of followers joined the march.  
Eli, a wide smile on his face, left Eeryn to greet the soldiers. The leader of the riders dismounted and hurried forward to the prince. Eli quickened his pace. The two met with the embrace of warriors separated in battle. After celebratory back slaps, Luther de Mans knelt before his prince. The soldiers with him did the same. Eli lifted him to his feet and they disappeared inside Eli’s tent followed by Eeryn, Bryn and One Eye.
Away from the eyes of the camp, Luther’s countenance clouded. He refused to meet the eyes that looked to him. Whatever explanation there was for his escape from Shiloh, he was in no hurry to reveal it. His companions waited for the man’s study of his hands to end. Luther drew a deep breath and slowly released it.
“Much to my shame,” Luther began. “I have won my life and freedom by becoming the messenger of Lord Zett. It is that vile schemer’s belief that you would accept this message from no other.”
“Then, it’s best you deliver it,” Eli told him.
“Yes, my Lord.” Luther’s eyes rose to meet those of the prince. “He intends to try and execute your mother, the Queen, at the full moon. I am to assure your highness that you may spare her the indignity of the wheel by surrendering at once.”
Rage rendered Eli incapable of speech. The muscles of his jaws knotted around lips that disappeared into a tight, thin line. The white knuckles of clenched fists shook under the firestorm blazing from his eyes.
“Hold it right there.” Eeryn pointed a finger at the prince. “You stop and think. Rash action will do your mother no good.”
“You would have her disgraced?” Eli found his voice. “Is that how you repay her?”
“Sit down,” Eeryn ordered. “You are acting like the fool Zett believes you to be. What captain? You would kill me for speaking the truth?”
“No one...” Luther began, but Eli stopped him.
“You are an irritating, emotionless dink,” Eli told the seer. His frown disappeared, replaced by a slight smile. “That’s why you are so good at what you do. He’s right, Luther. Charging into Shiloh is just what Zett wants us to do.”
“What do we do?” Luther asked.
“We have an army,” Eeryn said. “We use it.”
“An army?” Luther waved his hand over the camp. “This is not an army. This is not even a good angry mob. It’s a pack of whipped runaways.”
“What they lack in training,” Eeryn said. “They make up for in spirit.”
“Forgive me, Highness.” Luther looked to Eli. “Spirit doesn’t win battles or breech city walls.”
Eli laughed. “I hope Zett shares your opinion.”  


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Trails of Trouble---Chapter 45

The ambassadors followed Balfour from the throne room through a door hidden behind the dais. The door opened onto a small anteroom that guarded a spiral staircase made of stone. A single sentry nodded at them as they passed. Two winding flights of stairs led them to a hall in the royal family’s living quarters. Tapestries of blue and gold decorated the walls. Balfour stopped before a heavy oak door and rapped gently for entrance.
Dorryn was surprised to find that they entered a bedroom. The large desk dominating the room just inside the balcony said this doubled as an office of sorts, but the huge bed told him this was clearly not the king’s apartments. Evidently, Zett was looking after appearances. No doubt he controlled the infant king, but he had yet to set himself up in the royal chambers.
“Please, sit down.” Zett motioned them to the big desk where a bottle of wine waiting.
Dorryn knew Zett too well to be lulled into complacency by his cordial tone or the sharing of wine with outlanders. Zett wanted something he thought the ambassadors could get for him. As he sat, Dorryn reminded himself once more to be careful.
“I apologize for the scene in there,” Zett pointed at the wine and nodded to a servant. “That man is such a boor and we are well done with him.”
When the servant left them, Zett lifted his glass to his guests.
“To a historic new day,” he said and glasses clinked. “Destiny has made Zender king of both Shiloh and Marah. He’s too young to appreciate the gift of fate, but his mother and I do. We are faced with an unprecedented opportunity for unity and peace for all of Tettias. Unfortunately, there are short-sighted, bigoted beings like Menger among us who can not see the possibilities the future affords. Shiloh and Marah will be one. Taurus and Dagon have already joined an alliance to make it so. That’s half the world, my friends. But what of the other half? What of Valir and Wolven?”
“I’m not sure I understand completely,” Dorryn said.
“It’s simple really,” Zett explained. “Taurus and Dagon make up most of the world east of Marah. They have agreed to a confederation with the united kingdom of men. One united population under one rule of law without barriers to movement, trade or prosperity for all.”
“I sense there is a problem,” Dorryn said. “In which Magen and I might be of assistance.”
“You are absolutely right,” Zett assured him. “There is resistance in your homelands. A vocal minority in both countries is threatening the world with war.”
“I’ve heard nothing about this,” Dorryn said.
“That’s not entirely accurate,” Zett said. “You know about the arrest of Byryn Bou and Coryn the seer. What you don’t know is that their arrest failed to stop the murder of King Melchiz. The king decided to follow his father’s lead to form the alliance. That’s why Eli and Eeryn arranged for Byryn’s son to kill him. They hoped to make Eli king by force. Councillor Raryn assures me Eeryn and a rogue Wolven named Cross have raised an army of discontents to overthrown the rightful governments of Valir and Wolven. That army is gathering on the shared border of our countries.”
“That can’t be,” Dorryn said. “The Council would have known if that many people were gathering.”
“Exactly.” Zett leaned closer. “Byryn not only knew, he engineered it. Then, he sent his son to see that Eli was made the king. Byryn still has supporters throughout the Boubouja. It is going to take a large force to dislodge them. Councillor Raryn has assured me that he is ready to take whatever steps are necessary. Are you ready to stand with us?”
“Of course,” Dorryn assured him. “Raryn has always had my full support.”
“And you Ambassador Menger,” Zett said. “Are you ready to defend your home against these murdering rebels?”
“My embassy guard is at your disposal,” Menger answered.
“Thank you, both.” Zett leaned back in his chair and sipped at his wine. “We live in perilous times. Maintaining the peace may require hard things of us all. However, with the Creator’s help, your homeland may yet be saved.”
“How are we to communicate with you while you are in Marah?” Dorryn asked. “Valir has no embassy there.”
“I was thinking you might join me and establish an embassy,” Zett told him. “At least I can think of no one better. Councillor Raryn agrees. You have his blessing if you choose to go.”

Dorryn floated from the room on dreams of future glory. At last, his genius was to be recognized and rewarded. He would see Eeryn’s head tumble into the axeman's basket. The seer’s shame would be complete and the name of Dorryn venerated by generations of Valir.
He stepped from the palace. Overhead the sky was clear, the sun beamed down warmth made just for him. Dorryn waved away his carriage. He deserved a stroll through the gardens. Life was sweeter than the fragrance of the
Queen’s flowers that bloomed all around him. He wondered what had become of the Queen. The thought vanished swifter than it came. His life had rekindled; this was no time to ponder such trivial notions.
It had been years since he had walked from the palace to the embassy. By the time he arrived on aching legs, with sweat pouring down his body and his brow burned by the sun; he remembered why it had been so long. He dropped down on a stool in the gatehouse panting for breath and wishing he had not been so foolish. Some minutes later, one of the guards helped him complete the journey to his residence. He longed for the caress of his bed, but there was no time. He must make preparations for the trip to Marah. He would just close his eyes for a minute.

While Dorryn slept, Zett was busy with his own preparations for the journey. His walk to the dungeons was not as warm or colorful as the ambassador’s trip through the gardens, but it was more productive. Two large guards pushed open the heavy outer cell door as he approached. The cell was dark and damp. Water dripped against the stone in a far corner.
“That sound would get irritating quickly,” he thought and shrugged it away.
“I hope the accommodations are not too inhospitable,” he said adjusting his cloak as he sat at the small wooden table in the middle of the cell.
He pushed the candle across the table to get a better look at the prisoner. Dark crescents hung beneath her eyes stark against her pale skin. Her frayed hair mirrored the state of her nerves. She would never admit to it, but he could see well enough.
“I’m afraid there will be no jailhouse rescue for you,” he said. “Not that your son or his friends had anything to do with the last one. A murderer was needed. How convenient one was so close at hand and clever enough to elude the guards. Although, it didn’t work out so well for your husband.”
“Does Eli live?” the dowager queen asked.
“Yes, he does,” Zett admitted. “And that is why you live. He would come to avenge you but that would take too long. On the other hand, he will rush to your rescue and that will be his doom. Yours too, I’m afraid.”
“What do you want?” she said.
“Just to tell you that your trial begins and ends in three days.” Zett stood to go. “ I cannot give you longer. I must be off to Marah to see Zender crowned King of Men. Don’t worry, I will be with him to light the way.”


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Pub Chatter #75

     Lloyd has removed my soapbox and hidden it somewhere. I guess that I have no choice but to be a bit less preachy; at least until I find the damn thing. Sometimes I get carried away. The staff here knows how much I treasure my title as the Least Interested Man in the World.  

     They say knowledge is power. I suppose that’s true enough, but ignorance is bliss. Power vs. Bliss, for me, it’s no contest. I’d rather be fat, dumb and happy than thin, stupid and powerful. However, to each his own.

     Thursday night I’m going to Safeco Field to watch the Mariners play the White Sox. Recently, the M’s have displayed a talent for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Knowledge tells me to stay home, watch the first six innings on television and turn it off before they lose. Ignorance says, the hell with that. Go out to the ballpark and have fun, it’s the experience, not the outcome that really matters. There’s more bliss in ballpark nachos and beer than power in knowing the outcome and saving the ticket price. My only regret is that I missed the beard hat night.

     I thought I was about three chapters from the end of Trails of Trouble. This morning while I’m lying in bed trying not to get up---wham, a new idea for the conclusion and probably an additional three chapters. Well, the story is the boss. I think we will all like the new ending better---more action.

     I’ve been giving some thought to what I will do while Trails of Trouble cools off. I have some rough short stories already written that I’m thinking of polishing and publishing as another collection. They are all set in the west during mid to late 1800‘s. I’m going for Spooky Cowboy instead of Space Cowboy. We’ll see how that works out.

     Okay, I’ve stalled starting today’s writing long enough. I have the first cup of coffee well on its way. See y’all in the pages.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Pub Chatter # 74

     What’s on your mind? Facebook asks it all the time. Most of the time we just post something and go on. Have you ever stopped for a moment to consider what lies at the root of the answer? It’s an important concept. The answer goes to the core of the human condition.

     Neurologists, biologists and their fellow proponents of scientific theory know the answer. Our mind is the product of interacting biochemical reactions carried out by various neurotransmitters. In layman’s terms, our mind is nothing more than a series of chemical reactions. Sentience, they tell us, is the product chemistry not philosophy.

     Descartes offered the  thought, “I think, therefore I am" to convey the idea that he could not doubt that he existed. But what if every thought is nothing,but a combination of compounds that sparks an electrical response? In such a case, we are reduced to chemicals reacting mindlessly to stimuli from our environment. There is no “thought.”There’s a chemical reaction. There is no existence of man beyond the working of bodily functions. When the reactions stop----we cease to be--- and visa versa. So, a fart is as philosophically insightful as Descartes well thought out argument. So what?

     No, not so what---so, why? Why care about socially correct or incorrect thinking? Why care about morality? Why care if we live racially segregated or join hands and sing, “We are the World?” None of it is real. It is an illusion created by random chemical reactions. Thoughts--and thus the resultant behavior has no to do with right or wrong than digestion. The end result of both processes is the same.

     When you suddenly find yourself older than you ever thought possible, youthful illusions of immortality vanish. It’s not unusual to give a random thought or two to what it is like to die and what, if anything follows. Science’s explanation sounds hollow---as empty as winking out to absolute nothingness.

     Have a nice day.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Trails of Trouble-----Chapter 44

The palace at Shiloh was abuzz with swarms of the great and the not so great jostling one another for a chance to enter the royal chamber. The scene was played out in every kingdom from the Northern Mist to the Southern Sea.Three kings were dead. The world convulsed with the change and everyone scrambled to grab a piece of it. Oblivious to huddled ambassadors and mobilizing armies the newly crowned king of Shiloh stirred in his cradle under the watchful eye of his uncle and regent, Zett, Lord of the Army of Shiloh.
Zett claimed no particular god, yet he was a man of vision. Not a seer, but a sculptor chipping away the stone that hid future of power and glory that lived in his mind’s eye; Zett the Great, Emperor of Tettias. He liked the sound of it. A cold smile crossed his face as he stroked his almost there chin. Yes, the title had a regal ring to it. He would have to wait a while longer to try it on, but it was good to be prepared.
“Bring my sister to me,” he ordered.
“Lord Zett,” the Captain of the Guard said. “Her Majesty left word she was not to be disturbed.”
“Bring. Her.” Zett’s icy tone dripped malice. “I am not concerned with her wishes. Do it now.”
“Yes, my Lord.” The captain hurried from the room.

The Queen appeared alone in the doorway a few minutes later. She daubed at her red-rimmed eyes with a lace kerchief. Tears could not obscure the clarity of the scene within her own rooms. Zett stood over her son wearing victory like a cloak of honor. When at last he looked at her, dread stabbed her heart. She pushed it aside. She was the daughter of a king. She squared her shoulders and lifted a defiant chin. But, the hands neatly folded across her middle trembled.
“You wished to see me, brother?” she said.
“Yes.” He turned to face her. “Prepare for a journey. We are going home.”
“To Marah? Whatever for?”
“To secure our father’s crown for your son,” Zett said.
“I won’t do it,” she replied. “He is already a king. Let Marah find a new one.”
Zett calmly crossed the room. He rolled a lock of her hair between his fingers and let it fall.
“My dear sister,” he said. “It’s really for the best. The persons who murdered your husband have yet to be captured. Who knows, they may still be in the city. I would hate to see anything tragic happen to you or your son.”
“You bastard.”
“Yes, well, be that as it may,” he lifted her chin so that her eyes met his. “I will soon have the throne our father denied me. The question is will your son live to share it? Well, will he?”
Cruel laughter chased her down the hall toward her bedrooms. Behind locked doors, the fear that paralyzed her moments ago melted into a new steel forged in the fires of rage ignited by her brother’s threats.
She had been a young bride, much younger that Melchiz. Although their marriage was a political alliance, she loved him and always leaned heavily on Melchiz for strength. Now, that strength was gone. She must find a new source of strength with nowhere to look but within the dark void of her own wounded heart.
For the moment, Zett commanded the nursery. She swore to take it back and free her son. But first, why not let Zett build her son an enduring kingdom? Her brother’s vanity could be trusted to lavish the throne with all the splendor the united kingdoms of mankind could produce. She would see to it that the same vanity would be his destruction. She summoned her maids and began preparations for the journey.

Except for the execution of Eeryn, Eli and their little messenger, all was progressing as he planned. There was no coronation ceremony for young Zender. The deed was legally done and that was good enough for now. There was an empire to build and a ceremony in Marah was needed to show the world it had arrived. The generals of Marah must see the transition of power as complete and swear loyalty to their new king. He could buy their hearts later.

Zett led his entourage down the great staircase to ground level where the official business of ruling took place. He entered through the king’s door, a new purple robe draped over his shoulders and the haughty look of royalty on his face. Silence fell like a curtain. Every eye turned to greet him; heads bowed and Zett made his way to the throne.
“Good,” he thought with a nod to the crowd for their reverence. “Yes, very good.”
“General Winslow,” he said after sitting on the vacant throne.
A square-jawed soldier with close-cropped hair the color of cast iron pushed through a row of robed attendants to stand before the new Regent King of Shiloh.
“The palace is secure, my Lord,” Winslow said. “The complement of the guard has been increased as you ordered. The walls of the city have been swept clear of rabble and their trash. The able bodied among them have been pressed into service and the rest expelled. The gates have been locked down.”
“And the outlanders remaining in the city?” Zett asked.
“As you have instructed, my Lord,” Winslow answered with a bow of his head.
“Very good,” Zett said. “The safety of the government rests on your shoulders, General. Fail me and I assure you, your head will no longer rest there.”
Winslow backed away through the throng and disappeared.
“We shall have no more deaths in this palace,” Zett announced. “As an extra precaution, King Zender and the Queen Mother shall accompany me to Marah until the traitor Eli is captured. General Wizen will see to the day to day operation of Shiloh and military operations until our return.”
“Lord Zett,” a rotund figure, nearly as wide as he was tall, with great sagging jowls waddled forward to assume the departed general’s place before the throne. “Does this mean Zender will be laying claiming the throne in Marah as well as Shiloh?”
“Ambassador Menger,” Zett strung out the name with a sneer. “How nice of you to pay your respects. There will be no ‘laying claim’ as you call it. King Zender is the King of Marah. He will wear the crown as soon as we arrive. I believe the King of Taurus and the King of Dagon are already on their way to the coronation.”
“But, there has been no coronation announced,” Menger sputtered.
“I believe I just announced it,” Zett said. “You will pass the news along, won’t you?”
“You can’t do this,” the Ambassador protested. “There are protocols to be followed.”
“Guards, remove this man.” Anger lifted Zett’s order. “He seems to have forgotten his place. Fortunately, I am feeling charitable. You may live, but you will vacate the embassy immediately.”
The four palace guards that hustled Menger from the room had a difficult time removing his bulk. They returned to their stations wiping sweat from their brows. Zett smiled approval before rising and striding from the room. Balfour stepped forward to address the assembly.
“It is Lord Zett’s wish that Ambassador Dorryn of Valir and Ambassador Magen of the Wolven meet with him in his chambers. All those without permanent duties inside the palace are to leave the grounds at once.”
The assembled privileged filed from the room without protest. Passage through the halls packed with soldiers was difficult and only slightly less frightening than the scene they had witnessed. The palace grounds were lined with tents between which soldiers scurried carrying weapons and food in preparation for the trek to Marah. The reason an army of this size was needed to transport a child and his family was clear. Zett would have his way even if the road leads to war.  

Sunday, May 14, 2017

No Respect

     “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others?”

    Rodney Dangerfield made a comedy career of getting no respect. For those of us raised in a repressive home where tact and manners were hammered into our tiny brains, the wide spread lack of common courtesy these days is no laughing matter. Courtesy is an outward sign that human worth is valued.
The person who elbows past another in line is saying, “Your time is worth less because you are worthless.” The driver who takes to the road inside his own little bubble cares nothing for the other beings he encounters. The demands of the loud are a call for others for the lesser to serve the greater.

     Contrary to the memes one sees on Facebook respect and courtesy are not without cost. Politeness, courtesy and respect are acts of love. For the true of heart these acts are not reserved only for the lovable. Love will cost you. Love is not a natural reaction. Love does not go with the flow; it stands against the current. Love requires effort. Acting out of respect requires lifting others to a position equality. It requires ripping aside selfishness. It means tearing down the walls that separate people and building another’s sense of worth.

     The child whose screams of displeasure go uncorrected or alter parental behavior is being taught to devalue others. The student who discovers that failure is the instructor’s fault learns superiority. The teen without responsibility and ignorant of negative consequences learns to bully lesser beings. We see them on the news later. They are rioting in the streets; blocking traffic; shouting obscenities about those in authority, and resisting the behavior they demand of others.  

     The problem isn’t new. There have always been those who care for nothing but themselves. St Jude wrote about them. “Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke thee.’ But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.”

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Trails of Trouble----Chapter 43

Bryn stared into the fire. Flames rose from the glowing bed of coals and danced before him on the fallen branches piled within a stone ring. Their movement was reflected in his eyes, but he didn’t see them. Faryn sat beside him, her arm wrapped around his, but he didn’t feel her there.
“Where are you, Bryn Bou?” Her whisper barely made a sound.
“I keep asking myself the same thing,” he said.
Faryn, unsure she actually spoke, jumped at the sound of his voice. His arm circled her shoulders and drew her closer. The eyes that finally left the fire to look into hers, had aged. They seemed out of place on his boyish face. She shuddered at the thoughts that aged them. A smile rose from inside him. His beak moved along hers.
“Come to bed,” her breathless voice invited.
His fingers laced in hers, he lifted her to her feet. Hand in hand they left the fire for the soft bed of green leaves she gathered earlier. Her head sought the hollow of his shoulder secure under the shelter of his arm.
“I love you, Faryn.”
The beating of his heart against her ear told her it was true. Her beak locked in his; their breath became one. They moved together beneath the stars.  Caress and touch; gasp and sigh; the ancient rhythm transformed two into one. Afterward, he lay listening to her soft breathing; watching the gentle rise and fall of her breast.
Somehow sleep eluded him. Taking care not to wake her, he slipped from their bed. The fire had settled into a smoldering bed of orange embers. Bryn slowly made his way toward the woods. The night was quiet around him. The denizens of the dark silent. Solitary meditation was harder to find than gold or glory. He smiled at the thought. Not so long ago he steadfastly shunned the very thought of spending time alone. He climbed high into the boughs of a centuries-old oak; leaned back against the sturdy trunk and closed his eyes.
Where was he? It was a good question. He did not know how to answer for himself any more than he had known an answer Faryn would understand. He had changed, but how? He’d done no more than stumbling from one crisis to another. It made no sense. And yet, somehow, it seemed the most natural thing in the world. He had not planned a move on his own since he decided to start on this journey but had a real sense of being guided along the way. The thought sent a sudden chill down his spine. He shook it off. That kind of thinking was alright for the likes of Eeryn or Coryn, but not in his head, thank you kindly.He was a regular guy; nothing more.  
Below him, a twig snapped. His eyes opened, but otherwise, he did not move. Someone was walking through the litter below him. Pale skin flashed between the trees to his right and moving off down the hill. Bryn pushed himself to his feet. Taking care to avoid making the same sounds in the leaves and small branches lying on the forest floor, he followed gliding from tree to tree. The figure was too far away to make out details, but it was definitely a human. Size favored a man. He made good use of cover; staying low and keeping out of the moonlight that occasionally broke through the clouds.
“A man with training,” Bryn thought. “A soldier.”
He had to get closer. He moved deeper into the trees and took up a parallel course hoping to anticipate the man and get ahead of him. Gradually, Bryn narrowed the distance between them. The man wasn’t wearing a uniform, but that didn’t change Bryn’s mind about the man’s training. He was distancing himself from the main body of refugees. Had this man slipped past the sentries Cross kept on their back trail or was this the traitor in their ranks about his work? Bryn intended to find out.

Bryn glided softly to the ground. As he stepped forward, the man dropped into a patch of ferns and disappeared from sight. His chance of surprising the man gone, Bryn charged toward the place he last saw the man. The man was gone. Bryn scoured the ground for a clue. No trace of the man remained. Bryn turned to go back to the camp and collided with a pair of identical wolven.
“What are you doing out here?”
Bryn looked up into the matching faces. It took a moment too realize they weren’t identical after all. The one on the right smiled revealing a chipped tooth.
“Following a human,” Bryn said.
“Where is he?” Chip asked. “We’ve been out here all night. Haven’t seen any humans.”
“Until a few seconds ago,” Bryn said. “You didn’t see me either.”
Chip’s smile widened. “But, we got you, didn’t we?”
“So it seems,” Bryn replied.
Bryn sold them a look of resignation, then bolted by them. He ripped through the woods; jumped over a fallen tree trunk and launched himself toward the branches of a towering oak. A whooshing sound reached his ear a second before the stone hit the back of his head. Bryn crashed to the ground and rolled to a stop against the fallen trunk.

He came to older and wiser. A blurry image swam before his eyes finally crystallizing into the face of Cross. The wolven was leaning over him with an unhappy look on his face.
“You can’t outrun a wolven sling," Cross said.
Most of what he said was lost to the throbbing beat playing between his ears, but Bryn nodded agreement.
“Why didn’t you just tell them who you are?” Cross asked. He took Bryn by the arm. “Come on, get up. What’s this about a human?”
Bryn held his head in both hands waiting for the spinning to stop before answering.
“Serves you right for leaving me all alone,” Faryn told him.
“I was coming back,” Bryn said. “I just had some thinking to do.”
“And you couldn’t think next to me?” She asked.
“Absolutely not,” Bryn said. “When you’re with me I can think of nothing else.”
Cross elbowed Chip in the ribs. “He’s good.”
“We didn’t see a human,” Chip said. “We did find human tracks, after Bryn decided to come back with us.”
“Everybody back to bed,” Cross ordered. “And stay there. Not you two. You get back to your post.”

The next morning instead of signaling to break camp Eeryn declared a day of rest and mourning for the fallen king. It soon became apparent Eeryn had another motive. Refugees began to stream into the camp by two’s and three’s. The surrounding woods were filled with newcomers joining themselves to the group. New camps sprang up. By evening the mass of fleeing outland species gathered beside the little stream took on the look of a rag-tag army. Bryn was convinced an army was exactly what he was looking at.  

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Pub Chatter #73

     Hip young couple moves to a charming country home in need of some restoration. For various reasons, they want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. But the beauty and blessing of the country invariably comes with strange locals who don’t talk good; are hopeless inbred and stuck in their backward ways. Cell phones don’t work, new fangled technology is frowned upon, and new comers are fresh meat for the sex starved and the homicidal insane who frequent them parts.

     Who writes that shit? It must come from that corner of America east of the Mississippi and north of the Ohio, or maybe, the part west of the Colorado. Those people will believe the wildest bull crap and spread it like it’s true.

      I imagine Hollywood loves so much because it plays on the Freudian xenophobia that Yankees harbor in their subconscious. You know, that deep fear that the South will rise again and succeed in freeing itself. It’s the perfect formula for urban horror movies. Yeah, it’s a bigoted stereotype, but it is Southern whites so it’s okay.

     I only mention this because---and I hate to tell secrets out of school---we countrified types like to watch movies while we are snackin’ on cornbread and grits. But, that story line don’t play well 'round these parts. That makes it hard for real horror enthusiasts to find something worth watching.
      Thank God for Svengoolie.

Pub Chatter #72

     I don’t always ignore the world around me, but when I do, it doesn’t bother me at all. I take care of sick people and people who think they are sick for twelve hours at least three days a week. Tales of woe, pain and dissatisfaction are my life’s work. So, when I can escape--I do it as completely as possible.

     Books are the great escape. Whether I’m writing one or reading one, books are my refuge. By books I mean those things with pictures on the covers and lots of words printed on the paper in between. Ebooks are not inherently evil. For me, the problem with ebooks is that they are connected to the web. Touch the web and the spider comes for you. Within the web lurks urgent, once in a lifetime deals; breaking news; sports scores; the latest complaint about the President and the status of friends I’ve never seen. They all come sliding toward me on silken thread. The next thing you know, I’m hopeless wrapped in them and food for the spider.

     The power of books does not come from between the covers. It comes from between the ears. As a writer, I shouldn’t say that, but silence does not change fact. The author is simply a guide for the reader’s imagination. He can describe a room or a world, but the mind of the reader supplies the images. The imagination conjures up the smell of pop corn; hears the crack of the bat, and supplies the emotional rush of anger at the blind umpire who blew the call. The author describes the world, but the reader creates it.

     Of course, the author gets all the credit---and royalties. He also shoulders all the blame if he fails to get us away from the demands of the world outside our door. Next time you feel the world pressing in on you, don’t wait for the movie---read the book.


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Pub Chatter # 71

   I have to admit, I’m old fashion. I was born a couple of hundred years after my social and political thinking ceased to be mainstream. I’ve learned to live with being out of step. In ancient times, we thought that most anything that went on after midnight had a slim chance of being legit. If you were sneaking around after midnight to do your thing; there was zero chance your behavior would pass the sniff test.

     Obviously, I’m not as modern as the mayor of New Orleans. His idea of political transparency is to send out crews in the middle of the night to shape the city in his image. He says it’s to protect the workers dismantling the city landmarks he doesn’t like. Well, I’ve had smoke blown up my ass by better liars than Mr. Mayor. If he’s doing something legitimately good for his city, why sneak around in the night? He might lose a little political capital by coming right out and saying, “It’s time these cracker monuments came down.” But at least he would retain a bit of integrity.

     See what I mean about being old fashion? Who the hell gives a flying....that is, who even cares about crap like integrity anymore? It sure doesn’t buy much. It certainly has no value in New Orleans.

     The mayor and his city are stifling the rights of speech and assembly to his opposition by giving them no concrete time or place to protest. Sure, the opposition could hold a march today if they wish. The mayor can wait them out. Folks have to go back to work sometime. Then, he can send back out the midnight minions to do his bidding.

     Perhaps the protesters should adopt the same moonlight code of ethics. They could retaliate against “acceptable” city landmarks under cover of darkness. Why not? How much pride can they have left in a city that denys its history and hides its cowardly actions under a cloak of secrecy?

     And that’s all I have to say about that.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Pub Chatter #70

     Once again I want to thank the faithful readers of my serial blog Trails of Trouble. We will be coming to the end in about 3-4 weeks. There will be some editing and the addition of some yet to be written chapters that will appear in the when it reaches book form. This will not be the end of Bryn Bou and company. I am planning two sequels, Roads of Battle and Palms of Victory.

     Before I start on the sequels, I have a first draft novel that I will be doing rewrites on to tune it for publication. I wrote it two years ago for NaNoWriMo and it’s time to get it finished. It’s a nice little werewolf yarn that I think my readers will like.

     Meanwhile, the Pub Chatter must go on. I have come to the conclusion tonight that the ‘70‘s was to film making what the Great Depression was to finance. Lloyd just had the  movie Frogs on his television. Geez, did we really watch that crap back then? However, I was encouraged to see that Sam Elliot got better looking as he aged. Maybe there’s hope for me. I can’t say the same for movies. I think the last three horror flicks I tried to watch lasted about 10 minutes each. Thank God for books.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Trails of Trouble---Chapter 42

Bryn side stepped along the branch until he could see far along their back trail. The group had been traveling west for the better part of three days since taking the escape tunnel out of Shiloh. Eeryn remained close lipped about where they were going and Bryn was beginning to wonder if the seer knew himself. Their attempts at zigzagging had not fooled Lord Zett’s troops. They maintained a steady, accurate pursuit. Bryn peered over a small branch looking for the place where the road curved around a grove of tall elm trees.
Unbroken lines of troops streamed through the break in the trees. Bryn worked his way back to the ground with the bad news. Their group of escapees was largely made up Valir. It was a easy assumption that they headed west toward the Boubouja, but Zett’s men weren’t simply traveling west. They were following the group’s route. There was no more doubt; they had help. Someone in the tight little group of refugees was marking the trail for them.
“Still on our trail,” he told the others huddled around a small fire.
“I don’t like it,” One Eye said.
Bryn gave him a faint shake of the head and the subject disappeared on the rising wisp of camp smoke. Bryn had a feeling this was not the only concern lying just beneath the surface of the morning conversation. A nagging sense of something out of joint nibbled away at the back of his mind. Whatever it was posed a greater danger than a traitor marking their trail. He was sure of that. Across the fire, Eeryn drew lazy circles in the dirt while everyone watched. Only the prince ignored the seer.
“What is the trouble, Eli?” Eeryn said without looking up.
“I have to go back,” Eli said.
“You do not have to,” Eeryn countered.
“He is my friend.”
Eeryn nodded and continued to draw in the dirt at his feet. Silence took a seat by the fire and threw its arms around them.
“What purpose will your death serve?” Eeryn broke the spell.
“What purpose will my life serve if I sacrifice my friends?” Eli asked. “Luther’s suffering is my doing. He followed my command.”
“What of all of these?” Eeryn swept a hand over the fire. “What becomes of them without you?”
“Am I the only one who feels like he missed part of this conversation?” One Eye asked.
Bryn smiled and laid a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Want to include the rest of us in going on?”  
Eeryn looked up from his doodling. He pointed a long finger at the prince. “Eli, feels he must return to Shiloh and rescue his friend.”
“The officer with the scar?” Bryn asked.
“Yes,” Eeryn told him. “He not only had a hand in your escape, but helped the prince slip away from the palace. He’s sure to be arrested.”
“Then, Eli is right. We must go back for him,” Bryn said.
“What?” One Eye was on his feet. “Are you both crazy? We can’t go back. Even if we made it through the soldiers following us every human in Shiloh is hunting us.”
“The man saved my life,” Bryn said. “Besides, no one said you were going.”
“Listen, if you think...”One Eye started.
“Enough.” Eeryn was standing now too. “Let’s all stop this foolish talk about who saved who. There’s something larger at stake here. Look around you. What do you see? Wolven, Valir, human, Taurus, Ursa, we all share the same fire and the same fate. It has not always been so. There are those in high places who hunger for an end to peace and freedom. The wheels of death and war are already turning. We go on together or it is the end of all of us.”
“Where?” Bryn spoke up. “Tell us where we are to go.”
“For the moment be content to be where Zett is not,” Eeryn said. “Now is the time to stay alive. There will be a time to fight and a time to die. Do not frustrate the times and the seasons the Creator has appointed.”

The march west resumed. In their hearts they carried loads as heavy as those on their backs. Towering thunderclouds blown up from the sea pursued them; as relentless as Zett’s soldiers. The scent of the wind that rattled in the treetops promised rain. They managed to stay ahead of their pursuit thus far, but as the trail began to climb toward the gray sky, hopes melted in the falling rain. The series of switchbacks that took them up the mountain ate away at the distance between them and Zett’s soldiers.

An hour later, a long, undulating howl rose from below them and tumbled through the branches overhead. The sound broke through Bryn’s solitary thoughts calling him him back to the present where the tide of fleeing refugees rolled to a stop. Voices swelled from every side enveloping them in a haunting wolven chorus. Cross lifted his face to the sky and sent an answer streaming back the down the mountain. Along the trail, the answer was relayed to his brethren below. Cross walked over to whisper in Eeryn’s ear.
“There is a small stream up ahead,” Eeryn said. “We will camp there.”
The weight of undisguised defeat hung in on his voice. A mile down the trail, they reached the moss covered banks of a bubbling stream. There, speaking in muted voices, they made camp.
“Whatever that was, it didn’t sound good,” Faryn said when the group gathered around the seer.
“Is it safe to stop so soon?” Joel asked.
“The soldiers are no longer chasing us,” Eeryn announced. “They have made camp.”
“Then, what’s the trouble?” One Eye said.
Eeryn sighed and cast a long look at Eli. “It is as I feared. King Melchiz is dead. The soldiers will mourn while their leaders return to Shiloh. Make no mistake, they will be back.”
“Why all the gloom?” One Eye asked. “That means Eli is king. He can call the army off.”
“I’m afraid not,” Eli answered. “Melchiz has a son who is the rightful heir. He is the new king.”
“But he’s a baby,” Joel said.
“No matter,” Eli told him. “A regent, probably his mother, will rule for him until he is of age.”
“His mother or his uncle,”Eeryn added.
“His uncle, that’s Eli,” One Eye said.
“Not the uncle I am thinking of,” Eeryn said.
“Lord Zett,” Eli said. “Zett is the boy’s uncle. That explains why he was so eager to accuse me of murder.”
“I’d say, now that your brother is dead,” Eeryn said. “Your chances of being taken alive for trial are nil.”
“As are the chances of Zett giving up,” Eli added. His eyes searched Eeryn’s face. “Do you think we will reach the rendezvous tomorrow?”
         “Our lives depend on it.”

Friday, May 5, 2017

Pub Chatter #69

A pub is a great place to people watch. As a group we are pretty entertaining. Who hasn’t laughed at some guy falling on his face? I’ve been doing some extra people watching this week. Now you know what has kept me from posting a regular supply of Pub Chatter this week. I’d like to share a few observations.

People are born creators. We are driven by nature to make things---even if all we make is trouble. Some pub patrons have a real talent for making an ass of themselves. I am an ardent believer that Nature trumps Nurture. A person’s upbring may temper their genetic fingerprint to some degree; it cannot erase it. Given the proper amount of stress or alcohol, genetic makeup will trample nurture in a stampede to rule our actions. This tendency may have been caused by an accidental collision of amino acids, but I doubt it. I’m convinced people are creators because we were created to be; that whole image of God thing.

Here’s the thing, talk about diversity and the affect of culture all you wish, people share a basic genetic profile. There are genes for blue eyes and genes for brown eyes---some people have one blue eye and one brown eye, but no matter how helpful a third eye might be, humans have two eyes. Our similarities are more than skin deep. There are situations where basic human nature can be counted on to produce consistent behavior. Race, religion, sex, culture, nationality, be damned people act like people. They can no more change that than a leopard can change his spots.

That’s why we steadfastly hold to the idea that there is some good in everyone. We believe a divine residual hides somewhere in every heart. It’s a nice picture of our species to carry around. Only it’s not the whole picture. Our residual good is not going to one day burst forth into universal love, caring and a chorus of “We are the World.” We have a dark side.

“I hope you grow up to have kids who act just like you.” You’ve heard it. We all have in one form or another. Ever wonder who said it first? Cease your wondering; it was God. He built this beautiful self-sustaining garden for His kids. The garden grew food all by itself; no weeds; no work. Into this garden He put a naked man and woman and told them to go have sex.

I guess that’s why it was called Paradise. There was one frickin’ rule--one. It wasn’t like we weren’t warned. God laid that kids-just-like-you curse on us. We’ve been having kids just like us for centuries. Civilization may advance; people remain the same.

We still hate rules. Well, not all rules. We don’t mind rules that control the lives of others. We hate rules that place restrictions on us. That’s why that idiot at the end of the bar thinks he can turn the channel while Lloyd’s back is turned. Now you know where bouncers came from. Owwww, that had to hurt.